Tonight was pretty stormy, but at 7 PM I closed my Mac at the office to head a few streets down to Gustavus, a restaurant in Legazpi Village. I joined the South African ambassador and some embassy officials, and their friends, for an intimate steak and wine dinner.
I sat opposite Ambassador Agnes, who is a most lively, engaging and spontaneous diplomat, well liked in the diplomatic community for her sense of fun amidst a job that can sometimes be so much about protocol and stiffness. Ambassador Agnes had just returned from a visit to South Africa.
"It's so cold there now," she told me. "I really couldn't wait to get back to the heat of the Philippines."
POLITICS AS A STARTER
There were three tables and we were six at our table including the Ambassador and her counselor, Hugo Lambrechts, as well as Dondi Joseph and a guy I met for the first time, whose business card said he was a consultant for one of the Philippines' largest companies.
It was a most engaging discussion on politics, travel in South Africa, food and wine, and favorite foodie places in Manila. I ordered the Gustavus clam chowder as a starter, but the first topic was the SONA yesterday, so you might say that was the first course. The diplomats all studiously refrained from commenting, but the opinions at the three tables among the non-diplomats were very mixed. Some liked it and some didn't. There was certainly more consensus about the joys of traveling around South Africa and the favorite foodie places in Manila, than about politics.
And regarding foodie places in Manila, this consultant was certainly a gold mine of information.
WONDERFUL ICE CREAM
"Do you know where to get really good ice cream?" He asked me. I certainly didn't, so he continued: "Sebastian's ice cream in Podium. They have really great flavors. You just have to try the blue cheese ice cream with Palawan honey. It's the perfect merger of sweet, salty and sour."
He was on a roll so I let him tell me more. "They also have ice cream sandwiches with fudge inside as filling, and they're really good. What I like about Sebastian's is that they don't scrimp on materials."
This guy mentioned another great place in Podium as well: "You should also try Bourough at Podium. They have great New York comfort food. The best thing there is the pulled pork sandwich with green mango salsa."
THE BEST VELVET CAKE IN MANILA
Finally, he asked me: "Do you know where the best velvet chocolate cake is?" I really love velvet chocolate cake, so this got my attention most. I looked at him expectantly, and I had my Blackberry ready to take down the number.
"It's at Karen's Kitchen in Palm Village," he said. Then he turned his phone over to me so I could take down the number. It's 892-2280. I also asked him: "Do you guarantee it's the best? I'm actually going to put that in the Travelife blog."
He seemed pretty sure of himself. "It's the best," he assured me. So if anyone reading this beats me to a velvet cake order, please let me know if it's really good as I just love velvet chocolate cake.
BACK TO BBM
Since this guy had started giving out food info, everyone started taking out their phones, for some reason -- perhaps to take note of the information. Then someone saw my Blackberry and said: "Hey, you're on Blackberry. Let's be BBM friends."
Now I'm not really collecting BBM friends and, in fact, I still only have a handful of people on my BBM; but anyway, I ended up giving my phone to him to figure out how to get us connected on BBM.
"Don't worry," he said. "I won't bother you too much."
Then, as he was fiddling with my phone trying to scan the barcode or get the PIN, he saw the image on my BBM profile.
STRAWBERRY ON A PHONE
"What's with the strawberry?" He asked me. My BBM profile photo is a photo of a juicy strawberry. It's been there since February and I just haven't gotten around to changing it.
I smiled. "Private joke with a friend of mine," I said. It made me remember the enjoyable dinner that strawberry came from. And that was just about my cue to leave. I have a long day tomorrow and I promised myself I'd be in bed by 12 tonight.
"I won't say goodbye then," I said, getting up to leave. And as if on cue, he continued: "Yes, let's just say "see you on BBM."" And I just couldn't help saying to myself: "Now where have I heard that before?"
TRAVELIFE Italy Night
with Margarita Fores
and the Embassy of Italy & Bacchus Epicerie
September 8 at Whitespace
TRAVELIFE Gastronomic Tour of Italy
For reservations and information, please contact:
Bernice or Rachel at TRAVELIFE